Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2011-65

Common name:

Red Phalarope

Scientific name: Phalaropus fulicaria
Date: 19 Nov 2011
Time: 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM
Length of time observed: 10 min, 5 min
Number: 1
Age: unknown
Sex: unknown
Location: Antelope Island Causeway, first ("No Swimming") bridge
County: Davis
Elevation: 4,197 ft
Distance to bird: 50 ft.
Optical equipment: Nikon 20x spotting scope, Nikon 10x42 Monarch ATB binoculars, Nikon D80 with 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR lens.
Weather: Sunny, cool.
Light Conditions: Mid-day direct light.
Description:        Size of bird: Medium-sized phalarope.
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Phalarope: swimming shorebird
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Pale gray, see details below.
(Description:)            Bill Type: Thin and pointed, but thicker than Wilson's or Red-necked Phalarope.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Pale gray phalarope, foraging near Northern Shovelers and the three continuing Harlequin Ducks where the relatively fresh water flows under this bridge to meet the saltier water of the north side of the causeway. Pale gray above without stripes or other noticeable patterning. (One feather of the right wing, a tertial I think, maybe a greater covert, can be seen in the photographs to be darker than the others, but with pale fringing. I'm not sure whether this is retained from juvenile or breeding plumage.) White beneath, including flanks, front of neck, and most of head. Dark gray back of neck to rear of crown, where dark gray split around a white central patch on the top of the head. Black around eye and immediately behind it. Relatively thick bill for a phalarope, black, with a blunt tip and a orange base on the lower mandible, with a little bit of orange also at the base of the upper mandible. Black-looking folded primaries.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: None observed.
Behavior: Picking at small prey in the surface of the water. Spinning back and forth, but not making the complete circles phalaropes sometimes make.
Habitat: Surface of the Great Salt Lake.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
The other two species of phalaropes are the only floating shorebirds that could be confused with this Red Phalarope. Wilson's Phalarope eliminated by the black mark around and behind the eye, and the relatively thick black bill of this bird with an orange base of the bill. Red-necked Phalarope eliminated by the solid pale gray mantle of this bird (not striped as in Red-necked Phalarope) and also by the relatively thick bill with pale base.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have seen Red Phalaropes on only one other occasion: many of them on one fall pelagic birding trip off San Diego. I have much experience with Wilson's and Red-necked Phalaropes.
References consulted: Sibley Guide to Birds.
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Ryan P. O'Donnell
Observer's address: 1098 Crescent Dr, Logan
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Seen on a Bridgerland Audubon Society field trip, with Craig Fosdick, Andrew Durso, Allen Stokes, and three other birders whose names I have forgotten. We later met Bob Huntington on the causeway and he was able to relocate and independently identify the bird as well.
Date prepared: 23 Nov 2011
Additional material: Photos
Additional_Comments: Digiscoped video also available upon request, but not submitted with this record.